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January Coin of the Month

2014 Native American $1 Coin

Welcome to the first Coin of the Month of 2014!  I've picked this year's Native American $1 Coin, whose theme is native hospitality, especially hospitality toward the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  I thought it would be great to talk about some examples of this hospitality and how it helped the Expedition fulfill its missions. 

  • At one site in Nebraska (near the start of the trip), the expedition met with Native Americans of the Otto and Missouri tribes.  The explorers knew that if the council went well, the news would travel and most of the other tribes they would later meet would probably welcome and help them.  Happily, Lewis and Clark reported in their journals successful meetings.  They named the site "Council Bluff." 
  • Most of the men in Lewis and Clark's "Corps of Discovery" were soldiers, and they lived in Fort Mandan as their first winter drew near.  But even Fort Mandan wouldn't have gotten them through five months of winter if it weren't for the nearby Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and their trading center where food and other necessities were available. 
  • Journal notes describe help from various tribes in the form of maps, although no original examples survive.  Indians described geography and landmarks for the explorers and drew maps on animal skins or in the dirt. 
  • The one woman in the Corps, Sacagawea, is the Shoshone Indian whose portrait is on the front of this coin.  Her people, living in what is now Idaho, provided horses and a guide, without which the crew might not have made it over the Continental Divide, probably the hardest part of the journey. 
  • After the long crossing over the Bitterroot Mountains, the Nez Perce Indians proved to be a very helpful and hospitable tribe.  They helped the exhausted and malnourished explorers back to good health. 
  • Although Indians and Europeans had very different views about health, they shared their life-giving information.  Lewis was the Corps doctor, but Clark also learned to treat various illnesses and often used Indian methods. 
  • The Corps of Discovery spent their second winter at Fort Clatsop near the Pacific coast.  Clatsop and Chinook Indians, great hunters and fishermen, came to the fort often to visit and trade.
  • In the dead of winter, as food ran low, the Nehalem Indians had gathered much of the remains of a beached whale.  Though they weren't eager to part with their find, Clark convinced them to trade for 300 pounds of blubber and a few gallons of rendered oil. 

The journals tell much more of this fascinating story.  I hope you get to read them for yourself someday.  Meanwhile, find out more about this coin and its theme at the bottom of the Native American $1 Coin page and about Lewis and Clark in the Time Machine (1805 era) and the Lewis and Clark Adventure games! 


The front of the 2014 Native American $1 Coin.
Obverse:  Sacagawea is shown carrying her infant son on her back.

Back of the Native American $1 Coin.
Reverse:  An American Indian man and woman offer food and the pipe of peace.

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